Last week, we lost Mojo, a dignified old man ferret who was part of the FFL family. He lived with ferret friends and a foster Mom and Dad for the last few months as he had increasing effects from heart failure. He passed being held, loved, calm and with peace. The foster parents who hand fed him, played silly ferret games with him, took him for walks and gently bathed him as he got less and less able to stay clean on his own, were broken. He spent his last day hanging out with his weasel friends and even getting to have one last outside play date with them.
Today, I want to honor the bravery it takes to love them the way we all do.
Brene Brown wrote that the truest measure of courage is vulnerability. The sheer, raw courage it takes to offer your heart again and again knowing that it will be broken is mind-blowing. We animal people love these tiny, fragile beings who outnumber us and whom we will almost always outlive. We struggle against odds, to save them—even to save waves of them sometimes.
We invest our spirits and our hopes in them. We let them into the core of us. We let ourselves need them—see them as bedrock. But they are not bedrock. They are fleeting and fragile. Imposing ourselves on their timetable is like trying to hold back the next phase of the moon—the cycles are older than we are as a species. The rhythm is untouchable by anything we believe or need. Whether we throw rocks at it or land on it, the moon remains the same. But if we are wise and very present we will not miss the deep orange smile of a harvest full moon or the wisp of a white crescent. Animals move and breathe in a world we can only briefly intersect. For a precious time, our two worlds overlap. If we are wise and very present, we will not miss the moment with them. But unlike watching the moon, we risk everything to be there.
There is a lesson here for the taking about loving without reserve or regret. Everything we care about is transient and our task is to love anyway. We rush into loving animals like firefighters into a burning building. Firefighters will tell you that heroes do not deliberate. They rush in. They commit. But in our equation it is we, the courageous heroes risking it all who in the end, are truly the saved.
Honor the courage in us it takes to be so vulnerable. Honor the resolve it takes to hold our hearts open like blinking into the noon sun. Every impulse is to close off—protect. But that leaves just dark.
And though there is a moment the line of the x axis intersects the line of the y axis, each has its own unique trajectory. It is arrogance to think that one may re-plot the course of the other beyond that single instant of intersection. That single plot point may be a moment, a week, a month or years. But never forget that it is not ours to control or to live beyond. We move in our experience with these marvelous beings within this tiny plot point in their greater journey.
The magnificent characteristic of animal lovers is our willingness to live in their time. We know from the beginning that it will never match ours. But we rush in. We bolt up the stairs, toward the fire and toward the light.
We are heroes but they are our saviors.
This is sacred work. Never doubt it.